May 27, 2016 § Leave a comment
U.S. flag in the Confederate Rest Section in front of the flagpole on which the first Confederate national flag is allowed to be flown on Memorial Day.
Flag placed by Leonard H. Cizewski and Marshall Begel (his nephew-in-law) on April 30, 2016.
– Photo © Leonard H. Cizewski
Guest column in The Capital Times, May 27, 2016
Leonard H. Cizewski: Madison should ban Confederate flag at Forest Hill Cemetery (click for column on madison.com site)
On Memorial Day, the Confederate national flag (not the more commonly used and recognized Confederate battle flag) may again be flown over the Confederate Rest area in the Madison Parks’ Forest Hill Cemetery.
Last year, I asked the Madison Parks Department to discontinue that policy and only allow the flying of the U.S. flag.
I informed them that since they last reviewed the issue in 2001, the Supreme Court has ruled that prohibiting the flying of the Confederate flag in public cemeteries does not violate the First Amendment. I cited the policies of the National Park Service and the Veterans Administration.
That the Republican-majority House of Representatives just voted to end the display of the Confederate flag on flagpoles at cemeteries operated by the Veterans Administration should make even easier to end the display in Madison parks.
The Madison Parks Department responded by deciding to continue to allow the current policy, citing the First Amendment. That decision is an unnecessary and extreme overcompliance with the First Amendment.
The right to display the Confederate flag is not threatened, nor has it been. Our country is awash in displays of symbols of the Confederacy. Those who wish to display the Confederate flag have no shortage of times and places to display them: on their vehicles, at their homes, in their religious facilities, in their private schools, at demonstrations, and at private events on private property.
Those who wish to display the Confederate flag do not need the additional forum of a Madison park on Memorial Day.
In 2014 while in Normandy, France, for the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Campaign and a ceremony honoring my late father’s Signal Corp unit’s service in the liberation of Normandy, I visited the Mont de Huisnes WWII German Military Cemetery.
The only German flag allowed to be flown at that cemetery is the current German national flag. Neither the WWII German national flag nor the battle flags of the units under which the deceased fought are permitted. That is the international standard and practice — and that is what should be the policy of Madison parks.
Earlier this year my wife, Cheryl Robinson, and I followed the route that Anson Croman, her great-great-grandfather, traveled 150 years ago in the Vicksburg Campaign. He was in the 20th Michigan Infantry Regiment. After the fall of Vicksburg, the 20th was sent to recapture Jackson, Mississippi.
Our family’s ancestor was fighting not only to restore our nation but to liberate enslaved African-Americans. His actions resulted in the passage of amendments to our Constitution that are the basis for many of our current civil rights laws.
About 150 years ago General and Republican President Ulysses S. Grant said the cause Confederate flags represent “was … one of the worst for which a people ever fought.”
While in Jackson, Mississippi, we read an op-ed in the Jackson Free Press by Maisie Brown calling for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the Mississippi state flag. Titled “The ‘Cloth on the Stick’ Represents Hatred Toward Me,” Brown echoed Grant’s words when she wrote that the Confederate battle flag on the Mississippi state flag illustrates “white supremacy and represents a group of people who wanted my people to stay enslaved.”
The Confederate national flags, the Confederate battle flag, or any Confederate symbols both 150 years ago and now represent an ideology of racial supremacy that was the basis of the enslavement of Africans in America.
Those buried in the Confederate section of Forest Hill Cemetery were committing violent treason as they waged war against our country in furtherance of that ideology of racial supremacy.
Germans today do not need to display Germany’s WWII national flag nor the unit or battle flags under which their war dead served in order to remember and honor their dead.
Descendents of the Confederate dead and others do not need to use the Confederate flag to honor their dead.
Among the reasons progress on racial issues has been so difficult is that for 150 years our nation has been in denial that an ideology of racial supremacy was central to the Confederacy. That denial is enabled when people are allowed to display a symbol of white supremacy under the canard of honoring the service of the war dead.
In recognition of general and President Grant’s insight, to honor the Union dead buried nearby, and in support of Maisie Brown, who faces a far more difficult struggle to remove the Confederate battle from her state’s flag, the time has come for the Madison Parks Department to join the rest the world and only permit the flying of our national flag in the Confederate Rest area of the Forest Hill Cemetery, or to remove the flagpole from the Confederate Rest area.
Madisonian Leonard H. Cizewski, a retired nurse, researches his family’s history. As a result of his research, in 2014 the Signal Corps unit in which his late father, Felix A. Cizewski, served was honored in Tamerville, France, as part of the observance of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Normandy. (Click for blog post with more details.)
Historical background and connections to current events are occasional features of my family history blogs.
The Musbachs and Robinsons are direct line descendants of Anson Croman and he is my 2nd great-grandfather-in-law.
Thanks to Jeff Spitzer-Resnick who encouraged me to continue my advocacy on this issue and who patiently edited my writing.
Thanks to Cheryl Robinson and Marshall Begel for their support and encouragement.
Thanks to Anson Croman. Advocating for this issue continues the struggle for which he fought in the Civil War
And thanks especially to Maise Brown of Jackson, Mississippi whose much more difficult effort to remove the Confederate battle flag from her state’s flag inspired me to continue my advocacy.
Revised: May 28, 2016